Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Room -- Oh, the Horror!

View over the junk hills toward the far northwest corner of the teen lair excavation site and location of the ongoing Ecological Transformation. I'd put off excavating the room until Gerald departed for his second year of college.

Tower of fabric, toys, books, papers, and who knows what?

Blurred view of feline exploring radical habitat alteration in the midst of Gerald's Room, The Ecological Transformation

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Getting out of the swing of things

Left front view of Rainbow redwood play gym, which we're sprucing up a bit to sell after our son went off for his second year at college.

Left end view showing slide, chin bar, and cargo rope for kid's gym playset

Right front view showing disk on climbing rope at far right

Left front view of redwood playset gym


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Off to Arizona.... indirectly

Gerald takes off down the street on a 500-mile drive to Tempe, Arizona, on Tuesday evening. However, his nocturnal drive through the remote mountain country wasn't all smooth sailing.

Gerald had chosen a somewhat out-of-the-way route to select small, scenic roads and minimize freeway driving, which is well for a jacked-up four-wheel drive Jeep Cherokee whose ride is better at slower speeds.

He'd chosen to drive at night because he wanted to arrive in the Valley of the Sun early in the morning, when it's relatively cool, in part a necessity because Der Gila Monster's air conditioning doesn't work properly. (Air conditioning technicians seems somewhat mystified; the system has pressure but doesn't produce cool air, and one theory is that the system hadn't been purged properly, leaving a mix of different refrigerant gases.)

We had a farewell dinner just before Gerald left Albuquerque, at Monroe's Restaurant near Old Town Albuquerque, where Gerald could get a Green Chile Fix before departing the Land of Enchantment. His route would take him south to Socorro, New Mexico, where he would then join US Highway 60 west past the Very Large Array radiotelescopes and on through Datil and Pie Town to Arizona, where he would pass through Show Low and Apache country before descending into the hot country of the Valley of the Sun and Tempe.

A little after midnight we received The Call. Parents don't generally get good news from the offspring at this hour.

Three of the wheels studs on the Jeep's front right tire had become stripped and loose, making the vehicle unsafe to drive. Gerald was in a middle-of-nowhere location on US Highway 60, west of Pie Town, and had to hike a quarter mile to get a cell phone signal.

He had a towing provision that came with his cell phone service, but his cell phone company couldn't find a nearby enough towing service. Only one vehicle passed by during a two-hour period while Gerald was waiting for a tow. At least Gerald was equipped for camping and was able to enjoy excellent star-gazing conditions.

Eventually (delayed a bit because he didn't have his membership card and had to get the telephone number or was worried about not having his member number), Gerald reached AAA and got a tow into Quemado, arriving at 2:30 in the morning. The next morning the tow truck driver/mechanic called in an order for the wheel studs. This involved a very lucky coincidence for Gerald; Quemado only gets a once-a-week parts delivery and very fortunately the deliveries are on Wednesday mornings. The mechanic got the order in ten minutes before the parts delivery left from Springerville, Arizona. By mid-morning Gerald was on the road again, with the wheel properly attached and with a new insight into rural frontier life.

Coming soon to this blog: The room!

Gerald packing "Der Gila Monster" before returning to college.

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Dusk at Heron Lake

View beyond a club dinghy and boats in the marina toward the Narrows at dusk. Last week and weekend we were in Laguna Vista, near Heron Lake in the mountains of northern New Mexico. Gerald and I took a scenic drive in the mountains of the Colorado-New Mexico border, as pictured in a previous post, and the family also took a scenic drive to Pagosa Springs, Colorado. I also went kayaking at Heron Lake a few times. These views are from Friday evening, August 15, 2009, in Willow Creek Cove.

Cliff at dusk. At the height of summer these cliffs are home to thousands of swallows. However, their period of residence is short, in contrast to the Canada geese, who linger nearby almost year round.

Sailboats moored in Willow Creek Cove at the Heron Lake Marina in northern Rio Arriba County, New Mexico.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Naughty Notion for the Cat-Dog Amerca's Cup Match

Since Ernesto Bertarelli and Larry Ellison are no doubt worried about the development and overall expenses for the America's Cup Deed of Gift match on exotic catamarans, let me offer a helpful suggestion.

Let Ernesto and Larry slug it out one-on-one in West Wight Potter 15 "keel yachts".

That would cut out most development, crew, and sail expenses, setting a radically altered template and amazing new precedent for affordability. Future America's Cups could receive a flood of entries from dozens or even hundreds of America's Cup contending teams. Even entries from bogus Spanish yacht clubs owned by absentee tycoons could be welcomed.

The West Wight Potter's compact shippy looks and "cute" factor would no doubt bring new demographics to the audience mix and global television advertising package, further ensuring this choice's success. And, if you think WWP 15's are cute now, wait until you see them all decked out in color-coordinated sponsor advertising and fully endowed with all the best racing technology.

Plus, massive trickle-down technology transfer would no doubt revolutionize the West Wight Potter racing scene. We could envision all manner of high-tech gear being used by professional-caliber sailors as a transformative paradigm for "Potter Yachters".

Photo copyright 2004 International Marine, from West Wight Potter 15 gallery,

Sail racing's biggest names might soon be deserting their Farr, 49er, J/24, Melges, Star, Sunfish, TP52, VOR60, and even Laser sailing yachts in favor of the unique experiences awaiting them upon the West Wight Potter. They might even be joined by top racing talent from the MacGregor X and Force 5 world circuits. Imagine cut-throat competition with yachting's top names precisely jockeying their West Wight Potters into position as they exert maximum performance from the yachts in close quarters.

Also, it seems that designation of an appropriate Southern Hemisphere venue would solve many of the nitpicking difficulties in regard to Mutual Consent for the Cup Venue. May I nominate Cape Horn? The visual excitement of this venue would certainly compensate for any perceived (unfairly and unjustly, Potter Yachters would naturally insist) limitations of the West Wight Potter Keel Yacht. Of course, as steadfast Potter Yachters might remind other sailors, the West Wight Potter 15's conservative rig, enclosed cabin, and buoyant design would complement the choice of venue.

This site also eliminates the fears of terrorism or piracy; even a terrorist wouldn't be stupid enough to fool around Cape Horn, but the venue wouldn't be any problem for most billionaire sailboat racers.

Photo copyright Nikolay Murenets, "Kolyamour" from Trek Earth site

That's it, crew: Two West Wight Potter 15s, the mighty Southern Ocean, and every sailor's ultimate icon, the great Cape, are made into a winning combination with the oldest trophy in sport.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

The (Un)Safety Rant

Some grousing about idiotic boat operators made me respond with a blog comment that I’ve now expanded a bit. In the original comment, I was responding to a professional ship skipper who noted some stupid things that small craft operators do that might risk shortening their life span. Of course, stupidity on the water occurs in many places and no one type of watercraft operator has quite managed to corner the market on stupidity, though some succeed more often than others. There are all sorts of idiocy and idiots on the water.

Although it’s better to learn from the mistakes of others than to be the example (we hope) others learn from, it would be better still to prevent some of the idiocy on the water. Note also that it's impossible to make watercraft and water safety foolproof -- fools are too ingenious for that!

We see so-called skippers who have no clue that right of way rules (Colregs) exist, and others who misinterpret them wildly.

As an example, there's the guy who hears about the rights of certain fishing vessels and thinks, mistakenly, that trolling a line from his fishing pole gives him the same rights as a purse seiner or shrimp trawler.

And, limited ability to maneuver is a relative term, with judgment called for but sometimes sadly lacking. In a tight harbor or narrow channel an oil services workboat could have limited maneuverability, but it doesn't really have special rights on the open sea, whereas a supertanker's area of limited maneuverability covers some 70% of planet Earth (hint: the wet part).

Small craft skippers don't help by:
• failing to keep lookout,
• boating under various influences,
• changing course whimsically and unpredicatably (without looking or planning ahead),
• underestimating closing speeds and mis-judging approach angles,
• not realizing how invisible their craft are (visually and on radar),
• not thinking to hail on VHF,
• not maintaining or properly operating nav lights,
• not knowing how to interpret nav lights,
• ignoring channel and fairway etiquette,
• loitering in traffic separation lanes,
• not maintaining mooring and ground tackle (get my Drift?),
• not equipping their boats with radar reflectors (for near coastal) or electronic identification,
• relying blindly on GPS (even setting a course across shoals or dry land in a decidedly non-amphibious vessel),
• diverting rescue services and commercial operators by venturing into conditions for which they were grossly unprepared,
• not wearing life vests or using harnesses or jacklines in rough or limited visibility conditions, or by
• just plain old not taking early and substantial action to avoid a collision.

Does that cover the list or did I miss a few, such as the extreme idiocy of playing chicken or trying to see how close one can get to big ship, or someone deciding a big ship's wake or bow wave would be fun to play in? Darwin Award, here we come....

But wait! Here’s another groovy, trippin’ notion: try to navigate a small boat between a towboat and the barges it’s towing.

Or how about
• the drunken jet skier who slammed into a historic wooden ship?
• the sweet young thing wearing her high heels on a slippery foredeck?
• or the legions of jet skiers who think they can steer without thrust (off throttle)?
• or the ones who cut behind vessels… right into the path of other traffic?
• or the windsurfers who make absolutely no provision for cold water and go hypothermic without any help nearby?
• the guy who set up his bilge pump to work backwards?
• or the fishermen who anchor their small boat in a busy harbor or tie up to nav buoys?
• or the guys who anchor off the transom?
• the skipper and crew who don’t even realize they’ve lost their water skier until a mile later?
• or the skipper who uses a thirty-foot anchor rode to anchor in twenty feet of water?
(Hint: “Man, this is a drag.”)
• the guy charging into the slip at 10 knots… who realizes his fenders and dock lines are stowed below… and where are the brakes on this stupid thing?
• or the nocturnal hot rodder going 40 knots near obstructions on a moonless night?
• the idiots who drag a huge wake through marinas or mooring fields?
• the “teak surfers” getting their fill of carbon monoxide?
• the folks perched on the bow of a runabout bouncing in chop?
(Class, can you say “propeller strike bait”?)

Another gem: “Meestair, we don’t need no steenkeen fuel reserve!”

Or, Depth sounder? Sure we got one … it’s called the propeller and lower unit! Yep, we’ve got a very expensive depth sounder, all right. Sure is a pain to have to get a tow to the harbor and drive to the store to buy a new prop ‘cause we sure wouldn’t want the boat lockers clogged up with a spare prop, pin, and tools when we could stuff another case of beer in there.

Chart? Why bother? I know every sandbar, rock, and ledge in this bay! See! Here’s another one!

I’m not even going to try to think of all the amazing antics that happen at boat ramps. Drain plug? Straps? Parking brake or chocks? Safety chains? Who needs ‘em?!? Mast clearance under power lines? Why bother? Wait until we’re on the boat ramp to start setting up our boat for the weekend? Why not?

Many small craft operators in open water don't realize that, the earth's curvature and their proximity to the surface so limit their horizon that a fast-moving ship can "pop up" and be on top of them in a short time if the skipper is distracted or not maintaining a frequent 360 degree watch.

Some commercial operators don't help with sloppy watch standing. Fatigue and training can be a big issue on smaller commercial craft. Some operators of smaller commercial vessels seem to think that they have unlimited rights just because they're commercial. Some owners aren't too worried about how well rested or trained their crews are. And don’t get me started on the admirable standards maintained on some “flag of convenience” ships.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pond view, Laguna Vista

Livestock and cattle share the meadows of Laguna Vista along with human residents and visitors. Canada geese visit in great numbers. Mule deer are commonly see and occasionally at night elk may be seen. Occasionally the gobble of a wild turkey is heard; less often is one seen, and even less often seen are some of the more reclusive animals of the high country, such as bobcat or mountain lion.

Evening comes in Laguna Vista.

View of the upper, Willow Creek, arm of Heron Lake.

Chromo's Crags

Rugged mountain country has a special beauty. Gerald had been using my little camera in place of his own to get some shots of the mountain country of southern Colorado.

Jagged peaks form the distant background for a bucolic scene of cattle grazing in lush green pastures.

Scenic Chromo and rugged Rocky Mountain crags.

Old Chromo school house

View through the windshield.

Impressionistic view of peaks to the east of Chromo in southern Colorado. The area in this view furnishes waters that flow both to both sides of the Continental Divide; although on the western slope, some of these waters are diverted to a tunnel under the divide that dumps into Willow Creek, Heron Lake, and then the Rio Chama, Rio Grande, and Gulf of Mexico.

Update from the mountains

Today I kept closer to the cabin, doing a bit of yard work. But, this evening I drove to the Heron Lake Marina and did a bit of kayaking in the cove.

Last weekend I helped teach a New Mexico Boating Safety class in Albuquerque. It's an eight-hour class and has a lot of material crammed into it in order to meet national standards for boater safety education as well as provide some practical information on navigation, rules and requirements, boat handling, and operator responsibility. It's quite of bit of work and takes energy and focus to try to keep a class on track and not running too far behind.

Views from below Windy Point

View of Windy Point. A narrow shelf has been carved into the rock face for the railroad to make its climb up to Cumbres Pass.

As the highway rises up the slopes below Windy Point, it turns northeastward for the final climb to Cumbres Pass. "Babe" lies parked below.

View to the northwest, showing highway looping up toward Windy Point.

View west; the lighter colored terrain in the background is a tailings pile from a mine to the left. Closer, in the near distance along the lower portion of this view are the tracks of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.

View to the south showing lush mountain terrain.

View southwest toward Chama. The railroad crosses the highway just in front of the stand of trees that can be seen on the right, then climbs northward before looping eastward up the side of Windy Point and onward to the more-than-ten thousand foot elevation of Cumbres Pass.

Summer Cows

Today I watched cows being herded across a highway in southern Colorado. The cowboys, horses, and dogs worked together as a team to gather the reluctant livestock and persuade them to move across the road. Gerald and I were on our way back to Chama, New Mexico, after driving some high country forest service roads nearly two miles above sea level in southern Colorado.

Summer cows. Or, as Gerald used to say, "These are summer cows. Summer brown. Summer black. Some are white. Some have spots. Summer cows. Summer heifers. Summer steers. Some bull."

In honor of this week's Summer Cows, here's a Poetry Corner entry for the song popularized by Frankie Laine that introduced each episode of one of America's most popular westerns, Rawhide. The show was an early starring vehicle for Clint Eastwood and the song has lived on in such movies as The Blues Brothers and Shrek.


Rollin', rollin', rollin'.
Rollin', rollin', rollin'.
Rollin', rollin', rollin'.
Rollin', rollin', rollin'.
Hah! Hah!

Keep rollin', rollin', rollin',
Though the streams are swollen,
Keep them dogies rollin', rawhide.
Through rain and wind and weather,
Hell bent for leather,
Wishin' my gal was by my side.
All the things I'm missin',
Good vittles, love, and kissin',
Are waiting at the end of my ride.

Move 'em out, head 'em up,
Head 'em up, move 'em on.
Move 'em out, head 'em up:
Cut 'em out, ride 'em in,
Ride 'em in, cut 'em out,
Cut 'em out, ride 'em in:
Hah! Hah!

Movin', movin', movin',
Though they're disapprovin',
Keep them dogies movin', rawhide.
Don't try to understand 'em,
Just rope an' throw an' brand 'em.
Soon we'll be living high and wide.
My heart's calculatin',
My true love will be waitin':
Waitin' at the end of my ride.

Move 'em out, head 'em up,
Head 'em up, move 'em on.
Move 'em out, head 'em up:
Cut 'em out, ride 'em in,
Ride 'em in, cut 'em out,
Cut 'em out, ride 'em in:

(Rollin', rollin', rollin'.)
(Rollin', rollin', rollin'.)
(Rollin', rollin', rollin'.)
(Rollin', rollin', rollin'.)

Send “Rawhide” Ringtone to Cell Phone


See also :
”…the peak form of the show was convincing and naturalistic, and sometimes brutal.”

Colorado mountains near Osier

View to the east in the mountain country of south central Colorado, near Osier. The air is not as clear as usual because of some forest fires further west. The area pictured is near the scenic route of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, which uses old coal-fired locomotives to take passengers on a trip through natural beauty and frontier history.

In the hazy distance to the southeast at right can be seen San Antonio peak along the Colorado - New Mexico border, not far from Antonito, Colorado, the eastern terminus of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.

Rio Grande National Forest map and key

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Another America's Cup Rant

In response to various sordid announcements about the formerly sporting event known as the America's Cup, various sailing writers and bloggers have debated the pros and cons of proposals for the Deed of Gift match. Some have even praised the advances in technology that may result from the demolition of old rules and traditions.

Team Alinghi will have a motor on their boat, and have unilaterally suspended some of the racing rules of sailing (with some apparent International Sailing Federation connivance, and without Mutual Consent). If sailing anarchists are to be believed, Team Alinghi have apparently proposed a racing site in a predominantly minimal-wind area in the United Arab Emirates near the Straits of Hormuz. Yeah, Ras al Khaymah northeast of Dubai, as in not at all far from Iran, Iraq, the Gulf War, terrorists, war, insurgency, .... duh! Bertarelli would have the Deed of Gift match within about 85 miles/140 km from the nearest Iranian mainland port and within about 40 miles/65 km of the nearest Iranian island.

Yacht racing facilities in the area may be somewhat limited, but perhaps if the match is approved then Bertarelli and his cronies can build the world's first yacht club where membership is restricted to billionaires and oil sheiks only. (Quite possibly, members of one particular religious faith would not be welcome... guess which!) Is there perhaps also a plan to defray campaign costs by taking local sheiks, emirs, and other notables on some very expensive boat rides?

Oh yes, one of Alinghi's rule suspensions would seem to allow Alingi to apply chemicals to their boat or dump them in the water, in a bid to reduce skin friction, which could be useful in a place where wind is minimal. Or does maybe Alinghi plan to use chemical weapons to protect themselves from terrorists or to intimidate their challenger?

Or is Alinghi preparing a new, secret racing rule to make floating minefields part of the course ... and only Alinghi will have a map of where the explosive mines are placed?!

Not that the judge would likely allow Bertarelli's choice of venue, but would Alinghi's motor (used for trim and to generally replace muscle power) be more effective if the match were to take place in the flat-water, low-wind UAE waters near the Straits of Hormuz?

Maybe the Alinghi brain trust calculates that the Straits are a place where pollution from polymers would be less noticeable. But then, the pollution and debris from a sunken catamaran wouldn't be excessively noticeable there, either.

I also wonder whether any terrorists are having a marvelous fantasy about just what to do if a couple of western infidel billionaire capitalists show up near their neighborhood?

Does perhaps Bertarelli plan to bring a Swiss Red Cross representative to very politely and considerately ask the region's pirates, terrorists, mujahideen, insurgents, revolutionary guards, and assorted armies to be nice, take a vacation during the sailing match, and not come over to his side of the Gulf?

Or does maybe Alinghi plan to turn their catamaran into a pirate boat and try to blockade the Gulf and threaten to cut off oil shipments unless we award Big Ernesto the Cup in Perpetuity?

And, if the judge were to force Bertarelli to choose a Southern Hemisphere venue, may I nominate Kismanyo, Somalia, just south of the Line. Lousy sailing, hot as hell, plus convenient, easy access for terrorists and pirates -- all the sorts of things that should delight the Alingis.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

What do sailors eat, indeed?

Here's a bit of a poetry corner for sailors, in honor of Bobby Olguin's televised green chile cheeseburger victory over Bobby Flay and Tillerman's question about what sailors eat:


Tried to amend my carnivorous habits.
Made it nearly seventy days,
Losin' weight without speed, eatin' sunflower seeds,
Drinkin' lots of carrot juice and soakin' up rays.

But at night I'd have these wonderful dreams
Some kind of sensuous treat.
Not zucchini, fettuccini, or bulgur wheat,
But a big warm bun and a huge hunk of meat.

Cheeseburger is paradise.
Heaven on earth with an onion slice.
Not too particular, not too precise.
I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise.

I like mine with lettuce and tomato,
Heinz Fifty-seven and French fried potatoes.
Big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer.
Well, good God Almighty, which way do I steer
For my cheeseburger in paradise.

Heard about the old time sailor men,
They eat the same thing again and again;
Warm beer and bread they say could raise the dead.
Well, it reminds me of the menu at a Holiday Inn.

But times have changed for sailors these days.
When I'm in port I get what I need;
Not just Havanas or banana or daiquiris,
But that American creation on which I feed!

Cheeseburger is paradise medium rare with mustard'd be nice
Not too particular, not too precise
I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise.

I like mine with lettuce and tomato
Heinz 57 and french fried potatoes
Big kosher pickle and a cold draught beer
Well, good god Almighty which way do I steer

For a cheeseburger in paradise
Makin' the best of every virtue and vice.
Worth every damn bit of sacrifice
To get a cheeseburger in paradise;
To be a cheeseburger in paradise.
I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise.

Thanks to

Programming note: For me, a whole wheat bun, medium rare patty, bacon, swiss or blue cheese, green chile, guacamole, salad greens, bbq sauce, and tomatoes will do just fine, along with a cup of green chile chicken soup.